Prof. Mohammed Dajani, head of the American Studies Department and director of the library at Al Quds University, sought to bridge the gulf between Palestinians and Israelis by organizing a trip to Auschwitz with 27 Palestinian students. This colleagues responded by calling him a “traitor” and “collaborator” while joining campus riots against him. Now he has resigned from the school rather than continue to receive threats and protests.
The program involved both an Israeli and a German university and was to create greater understanding and empathy. He received little support from this school. The mistreatment of this academic speaks volumes of how distorted the views and values have become in this region. The institutionalized hatred directed toward Israel not only closes off the ability to empathize but the ability to compromise. While there are certainly those in Israel with equal blind hatred, I have known many Jews who have traveled to Palestine and sympathize with the plight of Palestinians. The only hope for peace are those Israelis and Palestinians like Professor Dajani who can reach across this great divide and find common ground. Just as Israelis need to understand the history and mistreatment of Palestinians, the Palestinians need to understand the history of the holocaust and struggle leading to the creation of Israel. The merging of the anti-Israeli sentiment with holocaust denial is particularly alarming. It is not just for some to hate Israel and Jews, they must also deny the historical wrong done Jews as we have seen with Iranian leaders. Once you remove all empathy as well as history (except your own), you are left with only institutionalized hate. The clear desire is to bar any understanding of Israelis, to leave Jews as little more than caricatures.
It is that institutionalized hate that gets students and professors to turn on an academic like Professor Dajani. As an academic, there is nothing more grotesque than people denouncing a trip to understand history and then seeking to fire a well-respected professor for exposing his students to a different view of Jews. The loss of academic freedom and intellectual curiosity (and honesty) will undermine the viability of the Al Quds University for years to come.
Dajani said that he offered his resignation in the hopes that the University would refuse it and take a stand in favor of academic freedom and in opposition to the blind rage and hatred shown in the protests. He is quoted as saying that, while privately telling him that he did not break any rules, he learned that the University was behind the protests against him. The University instead has yielded to the mob. In addition, Dajani was “fired” from the university staff union. The only problem is that he never joined the organization in the first place but that did not stop the staff union from firing him and thereby enabling the intolerance and hatred on campus.